The Council Episode 1 & 2 Review
New developer Big Bad Wolf have created what will become a benchmark in story driven episodic genre for games. They have created a game that goes beyond the standard set by others such as A Wolf Among Us, Life is Strange, and so on. They offer a unique take on characters taken from history spun in a complex multi-layered thriller set in the late 1700s. It challenges players to make quick decisions based on a key human trait, perception. Everything isn’t what it seems at first glance. Does the focus on the player’s perception work? Read below to find out.
“The Council is an episodic game like no other. Delivering a fresh new take on the Narrative Adventure, your choices and character growth truly matter. Make hard-hitting decisions, but also develop an array of skills to directly impact how the story unfolds. With permanent, long-lasting consequences, there is no going back. Plunge into a tale of intrigue and manipulation in the style of a classic murder mystery, living with a cast of alluring characters each hiding their own dark secrets. Trust no one while uncovering dire truths – no matter the cost to mind and body.”
What to Know Before Getting the Game
Before I jump into the review section I wanted to let people know that this game is meant for the player to be in a certain frame of mind to be played properly. If the player isn’t in that frame of mind it will cause issues since the puzzles/riddles get progressively harder (specifically in episode two) to where they almost don’t make sense if you don’t pay attention and keep your mind on it’s toes thinking and observing everything.
A lot of the choices in dialogue/ or paths for actions/events cannot be changed once the player makes a decision. Failing in certain instances will continue the story and the player down a path that they can either make worse for themselves or make it better depending on certain elements (I will explain in my breakdown).
You are given items that can drastically change the conversation or interaction tremendously.
- Devil’s thorn – reveals strong and weak points of a person you are currently talking with.
- Royal jelly – restores 2 Effort Points which are necessary to activate any of the abilities.
- Carmelite water – the next used ability is free (it won’t need Effort Points).
- Golden elixir – removes negative statuses, e.g. fatigue.
Players don’t always have to jump to using items during conversations, Listening to NPCs, interacting with the environment almost always gives hints to whats to come.
Personal Thoughts on Episode One
Episode one started out a little bumpy for me because the voice acting was a tad bit sub par almost to the point where what was happening wasn’t exactly enticing but the first decision the player is forced to choose a few minutes after the start interested me enough to continue to play. Immediately after the prologue, the game introduces you towards 2 characters that have completely different personalities also giving the player a hint of what’s to come. The fact the game isn’t your typical murder mystery thriller but its far more in-depth and thought-provoking. The voice acting got progressively better (thank god) to where I was slowly getting immersed in this world that has characters I recognized from history all apart of a secret society. After a bit of dialogue the player is asked by a character what “job” they do. This where the players will basically shape the gameplay experience they will get. The player gets to choose between 3 distinctive classes: Occultist, Detective, Diplomat. Each play drastically different here’s break down of the classes:
- Diplomat: skills are the most useful during conversations – they allow you to avoid answering questions and they let you show your geopolitics knowledge.
- Occultist: kills help you pay more attention to religious or mystical aspects, steal items without no one noticing or to manipulate others.
- Detective: skills are the most useful when you are looking for clues and can be helpful in solving puzzles. Also, they are useful in all situations that require logical thinking.
*Mind you after you choose a class that means a specific set of talents will cost a lot less while all the others will cost a lot more*
Once the player picks the class from that point on the gameplay changes. Back to the story. So after the introduction to the island the player immediately is drawn to make quick decisions in conversations to learn as much as possible about the disappearance of the player’s mother. In doing so, the player will stumble upon extremely creative sub plots that stray away from the main goal (Or the player thinks they will stray away from the main goal).
The episode is 5 chapters long the way you progress through it is solely based on the decisions and observation you make as you explore and progress in the game. As the plot unfolded for me, it got more complicated but in a good way to where It caused me to question choices before making decisions. Each decision severely impacts the story and the characters around you. Manipulation plays a huge role story both player driven and NPC driven. I’ll admit it, there were a couple of moments where the plot felt a tad bit simple (I pushed that off to the fact that I missed a few quick time event observations and didn’t have specific talents that would have changed my progression). The game truly lead me to believe I was making the right decision near the end of the episode but boy did I come to regret it in the next episode. Finally, pushing me to believe that I can’t approach this game the way I think I should but do it the way I feel would fit in the world of the council. Overall the episode was thought-provoking, interesting, and also entertaining to where I wanted to know more.
Personal Thoughts on Episode 2
Episode two takes place immediately after the cliff hanger I got in episode one causing me to regret the choice I made just previously. I was greeted with my first long confrontation that offered me odd choices that made it seem like it could go good or bad. (It went good) opening up a whole new encounter that started a series of puzzles and riddles that were a lot harder than the ones in episode one. Which I think was only presented in this context because of my previous choices in the previous episode and choices in talents/skills.
Turned this episode into just one big puzzle game that at times had minimal context in what to do and how to do it. First time in a long time where a puzzle stumped me enough to where I had to close the game and pick it back up later. That was only because I thought I could speed through this episode to get this review pumped out in time and boy was I wrong. I eventually figured out the puzzle (which was based on previous findings throughout the episode and some from episode one). It felt like quite an accomplishment in solving it. This episode showed me that this one was dedicated into focusing on politics, puzzles, and religion and setting the town for a very well written episode. This one challenged me to use my character’s occultist background (that’s the class I chose), and it made me question a few events that happened in history (certain parts of the game reference to events in history). Personally I enjoyed it more than episode one as a whole it just was written better, had more twists and really gave the player an idea of where the story is heading. Thought the ending wasn’t as good as the ending I got in episode one.
The Breakdown as a Whole:
- A unique take on the adventure thriller genre for episodic games.
- The choices actually matter and drastically change the story for the player.
- The talent system creates 3 unique play styles that will cause players to come to different conclusions.
- Every character has multiple sides to their personalities leading them all to be unique and interesting which the player dives deeper into the game.
- The soundtrack works well with the setting.
- The observation system is huge plus causing the player to be able to deduce if the NPC is lying or notice a change in emotions, etc. It adds such a refreshing take to the whole choices matter mechanics.
- The whole quick time confrontation system is a great to keep the player on his/her toes training them to think quickly and living with their decisions.
- The graphics are good, not great but not terrible.
- The impact exploring has on the story.
- Once decisions are made the player can’t go back (in the current play through and change them until they’ve beaten them).
- The puzzles/mazes are great to have in this game but they also borderline being a nuisance. One puzzle in particular was just to overly complicated to where it made no sense (was located in episode two). I had to actually exit the game then come back later to finish it. The answer to it made little sense but I just ignored that and progressed on with the story. If I wasn’t so curious about where the story was heading I might have uninstalled the game because the riddle/puzzle just wasn’t interesting and the clue given was to vague to the point where I didn’t care about it.
- Some of the character model animations aren’t completely fleshed out. They also have a stiffness about them only for moments.
- There were times where I got lost since the game at one point had a lack of sense of direction, It was never bad enough to make me stop it just ended up wasting time. On a plus side it caused me to explore more of the manor which did help in the long run.
- I seem to crash If I stay alt tabbed for longer then 5 minutes. Even happens if I’m shiftabbed for longer then 10 minutes.
- Sometimes the observation (quick time event that happens after some conversations) the choices for them don’t pop up then a message pops up telling me that I missed the opportunity to example go further with the conversation (No I’m not talking about the pop up when you don’t have the skill for it).
- The voice acting started out bad, then got better but then had moments where it took me out of the immersion of the game. The reason I put this in the bad is because the moments where it took me out of the immersion ended up being important plot point moments that I feel should have had a different effect on me.
As a whole this game is a breath of fresh air and such a unique experience that it really is hard to explain the game to those that haven’t gotten the chance to play it. It really set a new high for the adventure episodic genre I hope other games follow in it’s footsteps but don’t make the minor mistakes this one has made so far. There is a lot of love that went into this game and the quality of content really does show it. In the end though I’m happy that I’ve experienced the game enough to where I am already planning on when I’m doing my second play through with different setup of episode one and episode two.